Jun 12, 2024

Graduates Shine at Zaman’s Annual Student Recognition Ceremony

With more than 100 women proudly looking on, Zaman’s Chief Workforce Development Officer Gigi Salka summed up the annual adult student recognition event best: 

“There’s a lot of happy tears today.”

The June 5 event at Ford Field Park in Dearborn, celebrated 140 resilient women who completed nearly 18,000 hours of instruction at Zaman’s workforce development program BOOST (Building Ongoing Opportunities through Skills Training). 

Founded in 2009, BOOST provides the education and vocational training its graduates need to get a job that pays livable wages or establish a business, helping them lift their families out of poverty.

“Look at how many people will do something for their life,” Amira Elhady, who is finishing her culinary apprenticeship at Zaman later this month. The mother of five from Yemen started in the English as a second language culinary program in the 2022-2023 academic year and is now starting her own small business called Yeminite Cafe. 

“You have to always work hard because we can do it,” she said. “We are women, we can do it.”

Amal Fawaz, a graduate of Zaman’s entrepreneurship program, echoed those sentiments.

“This was a journey that profoundly transformed us. This program was not just about learning basic business concepts, it was about finding our potential, challenging our creativity and equipping us with the tools to turn our ideas into realities,” she said. 

Honorees received recognition for their academic work in culinary arts, entrepreneurship, literacy, and sewing – many of them completing professional certifications that position them for careers in industries such as industrial sewing and hospitality; or to start their own small business.

“I want all my students … to have experience in fashion design, costume design, and industrial sewing, so that when you finish my class, you will be able to get a job working in automotive, manufacturing, and (other industries),” said Industrial Sewing Instructor Lisa Reed. “I say to my students: Failure is not an option.”

For many of the graduates, the program marked a journey of a year or more at Zaman, which initially provides its clients with basic necessities through its Bayt Al-Zahra program.

Once clients are stabilized, Zaman guides them on a journey of self-discovery from crisis and instability to stability and sustainability. Zaman’s staff, which includes social workers and career navigators, helps clients make strength-based goals and a plan of service as it identifies women who are good candidates for employment and additional program resources, such as BOOST.

 “We are here to support you in what you decide you want for yourself. The kind of life change you want. The kind of job you want. The kind of career you want. The future you see in your mind, but also see in your heart,” said Zaman CEO and Founder Najah Bazzy. 

“Our job is to help you find your dream. Your job is the hard work, ours is easier. We want to congratulate you because you decided to take a big step in your life. A step for yourself, a step for your families, and a step for your community. People will look at you and say ‘They did it, I can do it.’ You will inspire other people to do what you’ve done.”